Mill workers in Prince George are striking today, with sawmill and chip plant employees unionized through United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 on the picket line.
The move is part of USW Local 1-2017’s rotating strikes, which began mid-month, with Tolko Lakeview in Williams Lake taking job action on Oct. 17.
Union president Brian O’Rourke was at meetings in Kelowna earlier this month, sitting in on negotiations between the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) and Locals 1-417, 1-423 and 1-403, all of which represent forestry workers in B.C.’s Interior.
The purpose was to attempt to conclude an agreement, in order to set a pattern for the rest of the unions in negotiation. Bargaining for USW 1-2017 with the Council of Northern Interior Forest Industry Relations (CONIFER) broke down in August.
O’Rourke said there is no bargaining taking place this week, as locals in the Southern Interior are conducting strike votes in all their operations.
“That should be completed by tomorrow, and hopefully tomorrow night or early Saturday we’ll have those results released. Tuesday next week we are scheduled back at the table in Kelowna with the IFLRA again,” commented O’Rourke.
Regarding the negotiations he attended in Kelowna, O’Rourke said they did not reach a deal, but did leave the table with the intention of returning, which he believes is hopeful.
“Hopefully we can be optimistic we can conclude a deal in the Southern Interior, which will probably set the pattern for the province. But that will be left to be seen when we get back to the table next week.”
As for the rotating strikes at Northern B.C. mills, O’Rourke said he cannot disclose which operation might be next.
“We are not releasing information. If we did, in all reality the employer has injunctions waiting for us at the gate when we show up. So we are telling our members, if you come to work and there’s a picket line, join in and participate and show your solidarity and we’ll go from there.”
Mills in the north that come under the present bargaining include Babine Forest Products, Canfor Fort St. John, Canfor Houston, Canfor Isle Pierre, Canfor PG Sawmill, Conifex Fort. St. James, Conifex Mackenzie, Dunkley Lumber, Lakeland Mills, Tolko Questwood, Tolko Soda Creek, Tolko Lakeview and West Fraser Williams Lake Planer.
Tolko Questwood in Quesnel, however, closed operations on Oct. 14, citing high log costs and poor market conditions.
Both the southern Interior and Northern B.C. agreements expired June 30, 2018.